Raw milk farmers are under attack once again, this time in Pennsylvania.
The Department of Agriculture is being accused of filing false claims about unpasteurized milk contamination. Your Family Farmer, a Chambersburg-based association of farms, was recently ordered to terminate the sale of raw milk, even though no proof of legitimate safety hazards reportedly existed.
Pennsylvania is one of less than a dozen states where the retail selling of raw milk is legal. The state had typically observed and respected the rights of citizens to buy unpasteurized milk, and the right of dairy farmers to sell the natural substance. The mood at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) appears to be changing. The state division of the federal agency recently claimed that Your Family Farmer had sold raw milk compromised by campylobacter – a bacteria linked to diarrhea, stomach pain and fever.
Your Family Farmer is a group of grass-based sustainable family farms. All of the members of the close-knit association work hard to nurture God’s bounty from the earth and to provide healthy and organic food – soy free and GMO free.
Edwin and Dawn Shank, Your Family Famer owners, said two state Department of Agriculture regulators “drove on to our farm … demanding that we halt raw milk sales.”
“They are not accusing us of an outbreak this time, but they are forcing us to stop selling raw milk until we complete more testing. The state lab is reporting a positive campylobacter test on our milk,” the couple wrote in an email newsletter. “This was not the normal time or type of testing that PDA does every month, so I was surprised and asked what was going on. The PDA regulator would not disclose any information why the extra testing [was needed] and adamantly refused to talk about it. He was ‘just doing his job.’”
The Shanks readily complied. They placed a small vial of milk in ice and sent it overnight mail to a state-certified testing center. The dairy farmers also sent a sample for the same batch to an independent testing facility to corroborate and compare the findings.
Although the independent testing facility found that the milk contained no campylobacter, the Pennsylvania testing center has not yet cleared the milk sample and will not allow Your Family Farmer to get back to business as usual. While both the Shanks and their multitude of raw milk customers will miss the continual transactions, the farm may still sell their meat, eggs and cheese.
“We are trying, with the help of some other very academically respected friends of raw milk and sustainable farming, to open a civil dialogue with the upper levels of PDA,” the Shanks wrote. “Our family tries exceedingly hard to respect and stay on good terms with them. Yet, at this point we feel we cannot go on without some improved ground rules for better trust and understanding”
An excerpt from the farm’s website reads:
“Partnering is the beauty of Your Family Farmer’s plan,” an excerpt from the association’s website reads. “Our sustainable farmer community works together. We need each other. They benefit from our unique strengths and we from theirs. In fact, we call this community of farmers ‘a sustainable farmer incubator. We think that word picture pretty well describes it.
“We work with them and they with us and all of us work for you, the rapidly growing community of smart, awake, food buyers. You who consciously chose to make a difference. … Your buying choice gives us and our artisan food partners a chance. You give us a chance to hatch and grow our dream to produce super-healing foods for your family.”